Kolkata: Hot tip No.1: If you are either applying for a job in Indian cricket, or seeking an extended run, an endorsement from Virat Kohli is all that is needed.
Doors just open.
Indeed, Ravishankar Jayadritha Shastri being retained as head coach of the men’s team has confirmed that beyond an iota of doubt.
Kapil Dev, however, is not in agreement with the widespread belief that it was a done deal ahead of the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC)-conducted interviews in Mumbai Friday.
Speaking to ThePrint, CAC chief Dev said, “Shanta Rangaswamy, Anshuman Gaekwad and I had an open mind. Kohli’s comments on Shastri were not even discussed by us…
“If, as the CAC chairman, I had to listen to Kohli then I would have had to listen to the rest of the players as well. I would have had to ascertain if all held the same view… Taking that route did not arise…
“To say Shastri’s reappointment (until the 2020-2021 season) was a done deal is without basis…”
He said, “For the sake of transparency, we did not tell each other who got how many points. No notes were exchanged. We went to that length…
“Let me emphasise that only a few points separated the five candidates interviewed by Shanta, Anshuman and I, not just the top two-three… It really was that close.”
“Close” would be no consolation for the four who lost out. Bottom line is that Dev and his colleagues preferred to act in conservative manner, instead of being bold and springing a surprise.
Dev’s assertion notwithstanding, at least subconsciously, the ‘Kohli factor’ would have come into play in a big way. Continuity, therefore, became the best option.
“At the end of the day, I came away enriched by the experience of interviewing five very fine candidates,” Dev added.
Twenty five months ago, when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was looking for a head coach until this year’s May-July World Cup, Kohli pulled strings in Shastri’s favour.
That was largely done through Vinod Rai, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, which has been running the once-envied and feared organisation from January of 2017.
To be fair to Kohli, he did not set a precedent as Sourav Ganguly had done the same — a move he regretted in time to come — with Greg Chappell in 2005.
Before getting the head coach’s position for the first time, Shastri had been the team director from August 2014 to April 2016.
A former India captain and stand-in cricket manager, Shastri has either been the team director or head coach in three World events and, in each tournament, India faltered at the semi-final stage.
Going forward, Shastri may have spelt out a grand vision and an equally grand plan to implement whatever it is.
In real terms, it would have come as a shock had the CAC actually embarrassed Kohli by disregarding his endorsement of Shastri, prior to the team’s departure for the face-offs against the West Indies.
Specifically, Kohli said: “With Ravi bhai, all of us have great camaraderie. Everyone in the team shares mutual respect and we have done really well together as a group. We would definitely be very happy is he is continuing.”
Dev explained that Kohli’s opinion was not taken. That was hardly necessary as India’s captain across the three formats had already made his views known at a media conference!
Nothing needed to be elaborated.
In any case, as Gaekwad acknowledged: “Somebody who knows the system and knows the players well has an advantage.”
Dev also suggested that the person holding the job naturally enjoys a headstart.
Very true, of course.
Then why advertise and conduct interviews, either in person or on Skype? If the incumbent is game, give him/her another innings straightaway.
Like the rest of the support staff, Shastri is currently on a limited extension.
Last December, Dev and his colleagues went for a new face in Woorkeri Raman after first-choice for the women’s head coach, Gary Kirsten, was found to be conflicted.
Outgoing head coach Ramesh Powar’s credentials were disregarded by the CAC, despite passionate appeals from Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana. Clearly, senior-most pro Mithali Raj’s attack on Powar hurt him badly.
There was no continuity then.
Getting back to the men’s head coach…
Mike Hesson, widely regarded as progressive and having had a fruitful tenure with New Zealand, narrowly finished second to Shastri.
By a “few points”, no more.
Australia’s Tom Moody, who lost out to Shastri 25 months ago, was placed at No.3. He has worked with Sri Lanka and is an IPL-winning coach.
As in July 2017, World T20-winning coach Phil Simmons of the West Indies opted out. He probably again sensed there was no point wasting time.
Dev and his colleagues assessed the five candidates (Lalchand Rajput and Robin Singh being the other two) on five parameters: “Coaching philosophy,” “experience of coaching,” “achievements in coaching,” “communication,” and “knowledge of modern coaching tools.”
Significantly, beyond discussion too is that Kohli has emerged India’s most-powerful captain ever. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ganguly come after him.
Twenty five months ago, the CAC comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman couldn’t ignore Kohli’s choice. Dev and his colleagues, too, went the same way.
That is the reality.
Meanwhile, the CAC may play a role in the appointment of other members of the support staff. According to a directive from Rai and the other administrators, which effectively amended the BCCI’s new constitution, that role has fallen on the shoulders of the senior selection committee, headed by M.S.K. Prasad.
Doesn’t make sense, but there’s plenty in the context of the Board today which falls in that category.
Lokendra Pratap Sahi is a veteran sports journalist who has covered cricket across the globe for nearly four decades.